The Songbird That Halted Development in Coastal California see more
For the past twenty years a small gray songbird has greatly affected the development and the conservation of the coastal real estate in California. A federal decision made recently to leave the coastal California gnatcatcher on the endangered species list has left Southern California developers stuck.
The gnatcatcher has been a cornerstone to conservation planning in San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties since it was listed as a threatened species in 1993. In 2014, the Pacific Legal Foundation petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the bird, arguing that recent science casts doubt on its threatened status. The service rejected that petition last week, but debate over the gnatcatcher isn’t over. Building groups say they may sue over the decision, while conservation groups worry the bird remains at risk from wildfires, climate change and development pressure.
“We’re still in the process of analyzing the service’s decision,” said Robert Thornton, an attorney who represented the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California on the petition. “The next step is possibly a lawsuit. The issue here is, did the service comply with the Endangered Species Act, which requires it to use the best science available.”
The gnatcatcher is a blue-gray songbird that lives in coastal sage scrub from Santa Barbara to the Baja peninsula. Researchers say that urban sprawl has whittled away 90% of its habitat in California. By the 1990s, the birds were feeling the pinch. At that time, a 20-year-old environmentalist named David Hogan with the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition to list the gnatcatcher under the Endangered Species Act.
“Back then, there were virtually zero measures in place anywhere in Southern California to protect the gnatcatcher or its critically endangered habitat,” Hogan said.
The listing ushered in complex systems for protecting ecosystems, known as habitat conservation plans or natural community conservation plans. The plans aimed to streamline environmental permitting, while preserving habitat for multiple species. And the gnatcatcher was at the center of it. By protecting the gnatcatcher, regulators also safeguarded animals such as the coastal whiptail lizard, coastal horned lizard and coastal cactus wren, said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist for the Center for Biological Diversity. Developers, however, saw the bird, and its ensuing regulations, as a roadblock to the region’s construction boom.
“In general, species listing and the critical habitat designation that goes along with that listing takes areas out of consideration for building and development,” said Shanda Beltran, BILD general counsel for the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California. “That obviously would be a concern to the industry when developable area is reduced.”
The Pacific Legal Foundation said in a news release that the gnatcatcher listing took hundreds of thousands of acres in Southern California off the table for construction.
“In total, approximately 197,303 acres in San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Ventura counties have been designated as critical habitat for the coastal California gnatcatcher,” the foundation, a Sacramento watchdog agency for property rights and limited government, stated. “Federal officials estimate that the economic impact of these restrictions will total more $900 million by year 2025.”
In 2014 the foundation petitioned to remove the gnatcatcher from the list, on behalf of the Property Owners Assn. of Riverside County; the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability; and the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, along with the California Building Industry Assn. and the National Assn. of Home Builders.
They argued that new research showed that the Southern California gnatcatcher is genetically indistinguishable from its Mexican counterparts, and shouldn’t be protected as a separate species. The service, however, convened a panel of geneticists, ornithologists and statisticians, and determined that the original listing is still valid.
The Pacific Legal Foundation and its partners say they’re contemplating a lawsuit to challenge that decision. They hope to change the way the service reviews data and perhaps reset the bar for future endangered species listings.
Read the full story here from the LA Times.
KB Home, Danielian Associates, B+D Magazine and The New Home Company to be presenting at PCBC. see more
Jacob Atalla, Vice President, Sustainability, of KB Home; Megan Eltringham, VP of Marketing, of The New Home Company; John Leehey, Director of Planning, of Danielian Associates; John A. Danielian, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, of Danielian Associates; Nick Slevin, Publisher, of Builder and Developer Magazine; and Jacob Atalla, Vice President, Sustainability, of KB Home will be presenting at the upcoming Pacific Coast Builders Conference, or simply known as PCBC, taking place from June 22 & 23, 2016 at the Moscone Center, San Francisco.
PCBC is the largest homebuilding tradeshow representing the west coast region for advancing the art, science and business of housing. PCBC alternates each year between San Francisco and San Diego and has been endorsed as the official show of Leading Builders of America (LBA), whose membership includes 21 of the largest publicly and privately held homebuilders in the nation. PCBC is sponsored by the California Building Industry Association (CBIA).
PCBC launched in 1959 as a small educational conference at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco, PCBC is now an annual two-day conference, product display and business exchange and is open to anyone professionally involved in the building industry, including builders, developers, architects, remodelers, designers, contractors, dealers/distributors and suppliers/manufacturers.
To catch Jacob Atalla, Vice President, Sustainability, of KB Home speaking at PCBC about “Progressive Building Science Technology, Design and Application,” go to North Room 120 from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm.
To hear Megan Eltringham, VP of Marketing, of The New Home Company and John Leehey, Director of Planning, of Danielian Associates speak about “The New Sustainability: Connecting People and Places through New Trends & Applications,” head to North Room 120 from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm.
To see John A. Danielian, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, of Danielian Associates and Nick Slevin, Publisher, of Builder and Developer Magazine at PCBC speak about “A Case Study Utilizing the ABC Green Home 3.0,” head to North Room 120 from 1:45 pm to 2:45 pm.
To hear Jacob Atalla, Vice President, Sustainability, of KB Home present “Tap into WaterSense! Differentiate your Homes,” go to North Room 120 from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
To register for PCBC click here.
CBIA has obtained a TRO restraining the implementation of level 3 housing fees. see more
The California Building Industry Association (CBIA) was successful on Thursday, May 26 in obtaining a court order (TRO) restraining the State Allocation Board – and all others acting in concert with them – from implementing Level 3 fees or sending notice to the Legislature that state funds for new school construction are not available.
This action was taken in spite of the $9 billion school facilities bond that has qualified for the November ballot, which will replenish the fund and continue the successful investment partnership between the State, the homebuilding industry, and local school districts to fund school facility modernization and construction.
The TRO temporarily halts the ability of school districts statewide to go to Level 3. The Court set a hearing date for a preliminary injunction for July 1, when it will decide whether to extend the prohibition until a full trial on the matter. CBIA went on to issue a statement on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 after the California State Allocation Board vote.
"The building industry has long been a strong funding partner and supporter of our local schools, which is why we have been working in partnership with educators to pass a statewide school facilities bond in November - a measure that is supported by school districts throughout the state, the California State PTA, and respected legislators from both parties," said David Cogdill, President and CEO of CBIA.
"Today's action will not adequately address the lack of state school facility funding, and will only exacerbate California's housing crisis, further reduce needed supply and make it even more difficult for working families to be able to afford housing in our state. The only effective way to ensure students have access to quality schools, protect housing affordability and safeguard our economy is to pass the bond in November so that we continue the successful partnership between the state, the homebuilding industry and local districts."
Reports recently issued by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office and Beacon Economics - commissioned by Next 10 - consistently identify the lack of supply as the primary reason that California boasts some of the most expensive housing prices in the country. Both reports also cite other consequences to California's housing shortage, including: impeding the state's ability to retain lower and middle-income wage earners; pushing homeownership out of reach for working families, making it more difficult for workers to build wealth; and increasing poverty.
Research also shows that California must add significantly more private housing stock to alleviate rising prices. Both the LAO and Next 10 recommended that adding more private housing stock - up to an additional 100,000 units annually -- to what the market is already providing could meaningfully address the housing affordability problem for many Californians.